Israel PM, Benjamin Netanyahu faces corruption charges

Israel’s attorney general intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges.

Avichai Mandelblit said Mr Netanyahu would face charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in connection with three cases, pending a final hearing.

BBC reported the prime minister is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more favourable press coverage.

Mr Netanyahu, who is facing an election in April, has denied any wrongdoing.

He has said he is the victim of a left-wing “witch-hunt” intended to topple him ahead of a closely contested general election on 9 April. Mr Netanyahu is due to make a statement at 20:00 local time.

The prime minister will have an opportunity to make his case against the indictments at the final hearing, which is likely to take place after the election.

If his arguments are rejected, it will be the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister has faced criminal charges.

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Mr Netanyahu is set to be charged with fraud and breach of trust for accepting expensive gifts – including cigars, pink champagne and jewellery – from a film producer.

This was allegedly in exchange for help with a US visa and tax breaks. In two other cases, he is accused of trying to get more favourable press coverage for himself.

The attorney general says he is considering charges of fraud and breach of trust in both, and bribery in one of them.

Opposition parties have said there is no way Mr Netanyahu should carry on as prime minister if that happens.

Mr Mandelblit has said the Supreme Court will determine whether he must resign.

Mr Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party has hit back with a strongly worded statement. It dubbed the attorney general’s move “political persecution”.

“Unilateral publication of the attorney general’s announcement just a month before the elections, without giving the prime minister an opportunity to refute these false accusations, is a blatant and unprecedented intervention in the elections,” Likud said.

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